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Veterans Serving Veterans

BY MELANIE WADE –

Polk County is full of generous people… those who quietly give to others, whether donating money, paying a utility bill for their neighbor, or pulling their sleeves up following a disaster to help wherever needed. Polk County is also blessed with many veterans who served their country well and chose to call the area their home afterwards. When you combine the two, a servant and generosity, you are blessed with people like Eddie Cross and Don Fretz. Both men served their country in the military and both men now spend their days generously serving others.

Eddie Cross is a member of multiple veteran’s organizations, including the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), and there are few souls more precious. Don Fretz is a member of the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), and he too exhibits qualities found too far in between these days.

Nell Weems, a retired Air Force Nurse, enjoys visits from Cross and Fritz. She appreciates their efforts and loves the gifts they bring her. She is shown with a picture from her military days while serving during the Berlin Crisis.

One of the many qualities that make the pair of friends so precious is their unwavering support of fellow veterans, especially those who are confined to their homes or a nursing facility. Every Wednesday, Eddie and Don visit Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehab to visit with veterans at the facility. Some are bedbound, others won’t wake up, but still yet, they go in, ask if there’s anything they can do for them, take notes, and do their best to meet any request given.  Others are up and waiting every Wednesday for the visit and are more than excited when they see them appear at the door.

“We’ve been visiting them every Wednesday for four years,” said Don. Eddie chimed in, “We started on our own. A lot of the veteran patients don’t have visitors, so we come visit them.” Eddie also explained that if the patients have problems or “we notice something,” they contact the Veterans Affairs Department. “But they are all treated real nice here,” he said. “All the help down here does a real good job.”

The pair also visit Mena Manor and Peachtree Assisted Living as well. At each facility, they walk in with a list of names, and as each one is visited, they marked them off. If a patient has been sent home, they take note of that and re-arrange the list. “We also visit on their birthdays, no matter what day it is,” said Don.

Nell Weems is one such patient who delights in their weekly visits and bragged extensively on the birthday gifts they brought her. “They are wonderful and they take such good care of me,” said Nell, with a huge smile. She served in the United States Air Force as a nurse during the Berlin Crisis in the 1950’s.

Bill Stokes, an Air Force Veteran, also enjoys the visits. “They bring me my Pulse every week so I don’t have to go to the front to get it,” he explained.

And it’s not just the veterans that appreciate the company. A sewing circle takes place at Rich Mountain Nursing each week and many times, the pair are recipients of their projects. “We sewed quilts for Eddie and Don,” smiled Bonnie Gibbs, Activity Director of the facility. “We appreciate them.”

The men said the DAV Auxiliary also visits on occasion and make name tags, door plaques, and wreaths for the veterans in the facilities.

Upon visiting each veteran, Eddie and Don make their way to the front where Gibbs takes their list and sends it to Veteran’s Affairs where the pair gets credit for their volunteer hours, although that is not the reason they continue the mission. As the pair headed out the front door, the smiles on their faces might lead one to wonder whose blessing is largest, the visitors or the visitees.

If you would like to become involved in veterans activities, there are several organizations in the area including the VFW, DAV, American Legion, and the Marine Corps League Detachment. All have meetings monthly and welcome veterans readily. Those meeting dates can be found in the Pulse’s weekly calendar of events in each edition or online at MyPulseNews.com.

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